Son of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos reignites old fury with vice-president election bid

Filipino senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr speaks during the plenary debate of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the Senate in Pasay City, south of Manila, on Sept 23, 2015.
Filipino senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr speaks during the plenary debate of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the Senate in Pasay City, south of Manila, on Sept 23, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (AFP) - Human rights victims of late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos's regime vowed on Tuesday (Oct 6) to ensure his crimes would not be forgotten, after his son announced a bid for the vice-presidency.

Mr Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jnr said on Monday he would run as an independent in next year's elections, widely seen as a stepping stone to an eventual presidential bid, but rights groups pledged ferocious campaigns against him.

"Bongbong Marcos's vice-presidential candidacy is a clarion call not only for the countless victims of martial law, but for all freedom-loving Filipinos to wage the strongest struggle against the resurrection of the Marcos type of rapacious and fascist rule," said Mr Bonifacio Ilagan, vice-chairman of Selda (Cell), an organisation of former martial law prisoners.

Ms Nilda Lagman-Sevilla, head of FIND, a group representing families whose relatives vanished during Marcos rule, said her organisation would also campaign against the return of a Marcos to power.

"Some people have shorter memories but the families have not forgotten. We may be in the minority... but we can continue to remind the people of the dark years of martial law," she told AFP.

She said 882 people were documented to have been taken by the forces of Marcos Snr after he declared martial law in 1972.

However she believes that there were twice as many unreported disappearances.

Among those who are still not accounted for is her brother, Hermon Lagman, a labour lawyer who went missing in 1977.

The Marcos family has long been dogged by accusations the dictator oversaw massive human rights abuses and plundered billions of dollars from state coffers until a famous "people power" revolt toppled him from power in 1986.

But after the Marcos patriarch died in exile in Hawaii in 1989, the family returned to the country in 1991 and began a successful political comeback, culminating in Bongbong Marcos getting elected to the Senate in 2010.

Mr Marcos Jnr has not been directly linked to any crimes of his father, but he has been a vocal defender of the regime and martial law.

In a surprisingly low-key launch, Mr Marcos Jnr issued a short statement on Monday announcing his bid. The statement did not articulate his reasons for deciding to run, other than to banish the "politics of personality".

He is due to give his first public comments at a small press event in Manila on Wednesday.

His political adviser Orlando Balbido said he believed Mr Marcos should be judged on his own merits, and not those of his father's.

"Are the faults of the father passed down to the son?" Balbido said to AFP.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple said Mr Marcos Jnr, 58, was ultimately eyeing a run for the presidency at the next elections in 2022, counting on a new generation of voters being oblivious to his father's crimes.

"The Marcos family actually thinks that in time, people will forget what really happened during martial law as the generation that experienced it are dying off slowly," he told AFP.

Mr Casiple said Mr Marcos had a good chance of winning the vice-presidency, based on public opinion polls showing him in the top three of candidates.

The dictator's wife Imelda, 86, also remains a political force, holding down a congressional seat in her husband's northern stronghold since 2010.